Utah Jazz vs Boston Celtics: The revenge game that wasn’t… or was it?

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 15: Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz drives to the basket on Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter of the game at TD Garden on December 15, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 15: Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz drives to the basket on Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter of the game at TD Garden on December 15, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

The Utah Jazz overcame early injuries to both Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors to snap their four-game losing streak against the Boston Celtics.

Hayward who?

After reports that he would not attend Friday night’s game, Gordon Hayward was indeed at the TD Garden in Boston as the Celtics took on his former team, the Utah Jazz. There, Hayward was able to see firsthand just how tough this Jazz team can be when they are locked-in defensively.

Despite losing Rudy Gobert to a left knee injury and Derrick Favors to an eye laceration, Utah showed impressive resiliency all night. As a result, Hayward’s former crew beat the Celtics on the road by a score of 107-95.

According to Coach Quin Snyder, Favors has passed concussion protocol after having six stitches. Gobert’s injury will be further evaluated tomorrow.

A strong first quarter from Al Horford (10 points, 4-of-4) shooting helped the Celtics build a 26-21 lead after the opening period.

The second quarter was an entirely different story. Utah’s effort, especially defensively, shut the Celtics down. The active Jazz defense held the Celtics to a meager 13 points in the entire second quarter. Along the way, the Celtics had a 10-plus minute stretch where they did not make a field goal.

The Jazz took a 46-39 lead into the half and didn’t slow down to start the third period. “Slick” Ricky Rubio had one of his strongest games as a member of the Jazz. Rubio scored all 22 of his points in the first three-quarters before fouling out in the fourth.

Boston made a few late runs to cut Utah’s lead to as low as seven. However, a strong fourth quarter from Donovan Mitchell helped the Jazz close out the big road win.

Here are a few of my instant reactions from Friday night’s win…

HUGE win

Just two days after losing to one of the Eastern Conference’s worst teams, Utah responded in a major way. After Wednesday’s loss in Chicago, many were concerned that the struggling Jazz may not win again in 2017.

The Jazz were quick to silence those critics.

The East-leading Celtics were paced by a 33-point performance from Kyrie Irving. Despite the big scoring night, the Jazz were able to hold the four-time All-Star to just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc.

Aside from Rubio’s 22-point night, the Jazz also got big contributions from Mitchell, Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh.

I will discuss each of their performances below.

According to David Locke, Utah’s magic number this month is to get to five wins in December. Tonight was Utah’s third win of the month and if they can continue to play defense the way they did in Beantown, five wins should be automatic despite the tough schedule.

With Gobert potentially sidelined again, the Jazz will need players like Udoh and Jerebko to continue step up.

Revenge Game

Since July 4, Utah Jazz fans have had Friday’s game circled on their calendars.

It was supposed to be the first time Gordon Hayward stepped on the floor to take on his old team. The team that helped mold him into an All-Star, I might add. Unfortunately, a potentially season-ending injury on the NBA’s opening night wrecked any plans of a true “revenge game” for the Jazz in Boston.

Or did it?

Former Celtic Jonas Jerebko played one of his most impressive games of the season in front of his old home crowd. Whether his 17 bench points on 6-of-8 shooting was revenge-driven or not, it was great to see Jerebko step up against his former squad.

Boston travels to take on the Jazz in Utah on March 28. The question is whether or not Hayward will make the trip? But until then…

Mitchell-era Jazz – ONE

Heywood-era Celtics – ZERO


Without their starting frontcourt, Coach Snyder was forced to play a few intriguing lineups.

I believed Brad Steven’s would capitalize on the early injuries by playing his bigs more and trying to dominate the paint. I was happy to be wrong.

Stevens seemed to play with even smaller lineups after the injuries. While Boston outscored Utah in the paint 50-44, Quin Snyder did an excellent job with his own “small-ball” combinations that kept the Jazz competitive on both sides of the ball.

Friday was also Joe Johnson’s first game back from injury. While his numbers may not show it, his return to the fold seemed valuable as Coach Snyder worked through lineup combinations all night.

Here are a couple of Utah’s most intriguing lineups from tonight:

Alec Burks, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles, Johnson, Udoh

Mitchell, Burks, Hood, Johnson, Jerebko

Many, including me, believe that Brad Stevens and Quin Snyder are two of the brightest minds in the game. Snyder, however, got the upper hand tonight in putting his injury-plagued team in the position to steal an impressive road win.

Mr. Plus/Minus

As I stated above, Udoh’s presence was so valuable for the Jazz versus the Celtics.

Udoh made a name for himself early on in the season by posting gaudy plus/minus numbers. The recent return of Gobert, however, has delegated Udoh to a minor bench role.

After recording just 12 total minutes in Utah’s previous five games, Udoh played for a career-high 30 minutes. Udoh also grabbed a career-best nine rebounds on the night.

Udoh’s biggest contribution came on the defensive end. During Rudy’s first injury, Udoh proved to be a solid rim-stopping option off the Jazz bench. His ability to force opponents into tough shots is a key component to his game and a major reason that Utah brought him in this offseason.

Example A…

I was even more impressed, however, with his ability to defend the perimeter and stay in front of his man.

For you “plus/minus” fanatics out there, Udoh posted a plus-12, which was tied for second highest on the team against the C’s.

13 > 3

This game also pitted two of the NBA’s most promising rookies against each other. The Celtics selected the former Duke Blue Devil, Jayson Tatum, with the third overall pick in this year’s draft. While Tatum has had an excellent start to his rookie campaign, this year’s 13th overall pick got the best of him.

Tatum didn’t get his first field goal until late in the fourth quarter and finished the night with just seven points on 1-of-6 shooting.

Mitchell did not have his best shooting performance, finishing the night on just 6-of-19 from the field. However, Mitchell made the shots when Utah needed them most. he scored 10 of his 17 points in the final period to help ice the game for the Jazz.

What was even more promising about the rookie’s game was in his playmaking ability. Not many rookies are able to recognize that their shots aren’t falling and immediately look to get teammates involved. Less than 30 games into his career, Mitchell already possess that ability.

Round one goes to the Spida.

Whats next?

The 14-15 Jazz won’t have much time to celebrate as they travel to take on the 21-8 Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are 12-4 at home and have won nine of their last 10 games.

Utah will need to play another inspired game on both ends of the floor to compete with another one of the league’s elite teams.

Despite being the second game of a back to back, I expect this Jazz team to play another resilient game on Saturday, but will it be enough?

Next: Utah Jazz editorial: Don’t be Fickle Fred in your Jazz fandom

Follow me on Twitter @TylerDThorpe for more Jazz updates and analysis.